Former Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella has passed away at the age of 66 after a battle with cancer and heart problems.
Sabella died on Tuesday at the ICBA clinic in Buenos Aires about 13 days after he was admitted with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The ICBA Cardiovascular Institute regrets to inform that the patient Alejandro Sabella died as a result of his diagnosis of dilated heart disease secondary to coronary disease and long-standing cardiotoxicity,” the hospital said in a statement.
Sabella was head coach of Argentina from 2011 to 2014 and guided the Albiceleste to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final, which they lost to Germany in extra-time.
He was also a skillful mid-fielder and earned eight Argentina caps in a playing career that included spells at River Plate, Sheffield United, and Leeds United.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi was among those to pay tribute to Sabella in an emotional Instagram post late on Tuesday.
“It was a pleasure to share so much with you,” Messi wrote in a message alongside a photograph of the pair embracing during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Alejandro was a great person, as well as being a great professional who marked my career and I learned a lot from him. Together we experienced some of my best football memories during the World Cup qualifying stage and also at the World Cup. My condolences to all his family and friends,” the Barcelona forward added.
The news came less than two weeks after the death of football legend Diego Maradona, Sabella’s Argentina teammate in the early 1980s.
“Another harsh blow for football in this dark 2020: the beloved Alejandro Sabella has departed,” said former goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol, who played with Sabella at River Plate and with Argentina’s national team.
“(He was) an exquisite player, a successful coach who took us to the World Cup final, and a great person,” Fillol added.